Sunday, October 28, 2012

'Once Upon A Time' 205 Review: Dr Whale Revealed


ABC
In case the completely different title card wasn't enough of a clue, ‘The Doctor’ doubles as the Halloween episode for Once Upon A Time. It also finally gave up the answer to one of the most pervasive questions in OUAT’s mythology thus far: who the hell is Dr. Whale? In doing so, it showed that there’s often far more interesting stories in the flashbacks of other lands, both fairy tale and something else entirely, than there is in the present-day.

ABC
The central focus of the hour was a Regina story as we saw how her magical apprenticeship with Rumple led to the circumstances which formed the heart-crushing, leather-wearing, HBIC we know and adore today. Well, that we knew because in order for Regina’s story to have a chance at redemption this season apparently she has to give up her want of power. That’s all they've given her to do so that the show can continue quietly positioning Rumple as the new true OUAT villain.

But it’s clear when in a world that magic exists again that her tearful declarations of love are met with zero reward in her grand reunion with lost love Daniel that her path to happiness isn't going to be in giving up said power. For the sake of the entertainment value of the show I hope she realizes that she’s just the kind of person who can’t get the things she wants by being apologetic. Henry is never going to choose her over Emma, his gramps David, or just about anyone. He only knows her as the evil Queen of his fairy-tale book and that’s not ever going to change no matter how many days she goes without a little abracadabra. I appreciate the chance at seeing her layers but it’s taking a lot of fun away from the character, at least in the present day.

ABC
This is why we can all thank our lucky stars that this show tells stories in multiple lands and time periods; Regina as the heart-broken lonely girl trying to find her place in a world that gave her this status she never asked for works so much better than seeing her the same way in present-day Storybrooke. Tonight’s episode gave us a chance to see the first meeting between young Regina, mistress of the dark arts in training, and a Jefferson who gleefully hopped around from land to land meeting a number of interesting characters along the way. Which brings us to the aforementioned big answer of the episode: Dr. Whale is actually Dr. Victor Frankenstein. Yep, that's right we're going full-literary.

ABC
He isn't from fairy tale land at all and he’s enlisted to do a job for Regina. She wants Daniel back from the dead that’s the sole reason for her want to learn magic in the first place, but she’s informed that magic has its limitations and that is one of them. Victor comes from a land where magic is surpassed by something else entirely—science. When the episode is finished, it makes you sit back and wonder who else inhabits Victor’s land? The closest estimation of what it is would be some sort of land of literary characters beyond fairy tales. David Anders finally got the chance to show why he’s such a great piece of this show. He was charming, he was aloof, he brought steampunk fashion realness and a sense of danger that some people just inhabit in their roles.

ABC
His character also served the very important role of giving Regina the final shove into her darker self by intentionally failing the procedure to bring Daniel back. In the present-day, his current incarnation Dr. Whalenstein tried to right this wrong with the hope that his reward could be a way back to his world where his brother might be waiting. See, this version of events alludes to the fact that Victor’s brother is the creature he brought back through the use of this dangerous uber-magic that is science. It was surely a significant instance of when being both is a terrible thing. Whale was a fairly harmless womanizer, but Victor is a man who spits in the face of magic until he has to come crawling back to it. Given the opportunity, he's quite potentially dangerous and determined to get back to his world. I’m pretty sure that magic is a stand-in for a higher power in the instance of his character. There’s definite tension between Victor and Mr. Gold as currently the latter holds all the power in this land. Again, they’re definitely positioning him as the man to be feared most this season and I do wonder to what end.

Emma, Snow and the rest of the fairy tale land survivors had a couple of scenes this episode but the only thing they did that mattered was to introduce Killian Jones to these characters and set up next week’s grand adventure. Within the framework of the episode they felt dreadfully out of place. It feels like a studio note explained that we can’t just ignore two of the stars of this series for two weeks in a row. That’s a shame, as I feel that the people who are truly invested in this story want to know about and follow the stories of many of the characters in this show, even the ones that are only recurring. 

ABC
There should be entire episodes devoted to fascinating characters like Jefferson without other side stories coming along and putting the flow of the episode to a screeching halt of irrelevance. Look at the scene that took place between Jefferson, Rumple, and Victor for evidence that these characters have enough fascinating back-story with one another that they could easily support an entire hour’s worth of OUAT goodness. Otherwise, you're going about introducing fascinating characters that sit on the proverbial bench until they're needed to service story again. That's not a great thing and it happens to many shows that feature a great deal of important side characters. 

ABC
Next week we’re focusing on Emma again as we head up the beanstalk with her and Killian to find the giant awaiting them (guest star Jorge Garcia). We also get to see a bit of Emma’s pre-Storybrooke past and it looks like the mystery man (Michael Raymond-James) from the season two premiere that received the postcard from Storybrooke is a part of it. Is he Henry’s father? Someone else from fairy tale (or another) land displaced and put into our world? I think we’re all just happy that Emma’s big yellow VW Bug is making its grand return. 


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